My Vision of Future

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MY VISION OF THE FUTURE

Reimagining India's Present

most of us have a massive psychological barrier against looking seriously at the future. Many nurture the not unnatural, latent fear that any engagement with the future will turn out to be an acknowledgement of their mortality and the transience of their world. Different cultures handle this fear differently. In India’s middle-class culture, attempts to look at the future often end up as tame, defensive litanies of moral platitudes or as overly dramatic, doomsday ‘propheteering’. Even those who avoid these extremes usually view the future either as the future of the past or as a linear projection of the present. If one is a fatalist, one sees no escape from the past; if not, one often desperately tries to live in the instant present. Those who see the future as growing directly out of the present also often narrow their choices. When optimistic, they try to correct for the ills of the present in the future; when pessimistic, they presume that the future will aggravate the ills. If one views the future from within the framework of the past, one arrives at questions like ‘Can we restore the precolonial village republics of India as part of a Gandhian project?’ or ‘Should we revive Nehruvian nonalignment to better negotiate the turbulent waters of India’s inter-

national relations in the post-cold-war world?’ If one views the future from within the framework of the present, one asks questions like ‘Will the present fresh water resources or fossil-fuel stock of the world outlast the twenty-first century?’ Important though some of these questions are, they are not the core of future studies. No environmentalist can claim to be a futurist by only estimating, on the basis of existing data, the pollution levels in India in the coming decades. Exactly as no economist can claim to be a futurist by predicting the exchange value of the Indian rupee in the year 2005. The reason is simple. The future—that is, the

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